light and responsive is the old one of “I’m too busy working to take
time to train my horse.” This is an example of what I mean when I say
“The only reason between a good reason and a poor excuse is which end
you’re on, telling or listening to it.” It will take a
professional trainer more than a week to put on the same amount of time
on a horse than you do in a single day of work on a ranch or in a
feedlot. The other “reason” people tend to use is that it “takes too
much time.“ In essence it actually doesn’t. All you have to do is pay
attention to what you are doing and ride your horses correctly.
way which reduces stress in the cattle is to allow your
horse to stop in a relaxed, natural and balanced stop. Notice I did not
word this as “Teach, force or make” but allowing your horse to stop.
When working cattle, especially when working them with the least
possible amount of stress, it is best to let the horse to work on it’s
own as much as possible. This is a matter of simple logic. In the time
it takes us to tell the horse what to do, we are often late with the
move. The overall result in learning to work cattle in a reduced stress
manner is that you are, at the same time, teaching your horse. Once
your horse learns, it really doesn’t take that much time for it to
start working on it’s own, keeping it’s head down, body balanced, and
looking at the cow.
fence, and when in position, slide stops and rolls back into
the cow then chases it back down the fence. The horse’s head is usually
up in the air with the rider pulling the horse to a stop and around. In
cutting competitions, the cow actually is working the horse, with the
turn back riders deciding when to turn the cow. While these horses
appear to be stopping on their own, they are not. They are only
practicing the stop that has been drilled into them by the rider
pulling on them to teach them to stop with the cow. This is why you see
so many horses lose their cow at cuttings. They are basically chasing
the cow, then stopping a little late and sliding past the cow. This,
combined with the fact they have to “hold the line” and stay parallel
to the cow to score high is the reason why cattle get around horses (or
jump the fence) when they come to the side of the arena. This is nearly
eliminated by allowing your horse to stop rather than teaching or
forcing it to stop.
a living have gotten into the of “throwing” horse’s their
heads and riding with a loose rein even when we are starting colts.
When we want to stop or slow down we are taught to pull or jerk on the
reins. On the other hand, Dressage riders use a light mouth
contact, but use their body for speed control, slowing their horses by
simply adjusting their weight a little deeper in the saddle and
exhaling (which slightly increases your weight in the saddle).
Actually it is fairly simple to teach our horses to respond in this
way, and is the first step in letting a horse stop on its own. Not only
can make faster progress on a green colt than you can a broke horse,
most colts will pick slowing down in this manner, and even be stopping
on their own in the first thirty rides.
that this kind
of training is too “advanced” for us or our horses. The only “advanced”
to these methods, is that we have to open our minds to them. We may
even have to concentrate on what we are doing until we begin riding
this way instinctively. But for our horses, it is all basic, and they
will learn it extremely fast.
ounces. The easier we make it for the horse to feel what we want,
the easier it will be for them to figure it out and the lighter they
will be. If you start doing these things on the first ride, you will
have your horses stopping in their own within a month, and keeping
their eyes on the cow while they are doing it.
manner: 1) Say whoa (the
verbal command gets the horse’s attention and gets it to paying
attention to what comes next).
command and first physical cue).
body into the saddle and lower your hands reducing the amount of mouth
contact and briefly touch the horse‘s neck.
4) Give the horse another stride, pick up slightly with your hands and
apply a few more ounces of pressure than you were originally using.
This is to reinforce the prior cues. If the horse doesn’t
the procedure, being a little more authoritative in saying “whoa” and a
little sharper in picking up on the reins. Once the horse
stops, ask it
to back one or two steps. This will get your horse to begin folding
it’s hindquarters underneath it automatically when you stop. Most
horses will begin stopping before you begin re-establishing mouth
contact before the fifth stop. At
the next stage
(keeping in mind that this is still the first ride) you will begin
asking the horse to slow to a walk from a trot (or from a lope to a
trot). 1) Relax your body
into the saddle while lowering your hands to reduce mouth contact. 2) Raise your hands
re-establishing the original mouth contact.
Once again, most
horses will respond to this method of slowing within four or five
attempts. After slowing your horse a few times in this manner, ask it
to stop in the same manner you did at a walk. Remember to let your
horse relax a few seconds after stopping and backing.
At the lope, slow to a trot using the above methods two or three
hindquarters underneath it and stop fast the first time you ask. By the
time you do this four or five times, you will find the colt stopping
hard as soon as your hand touches it’s neck. By being consistent, your
horses will understand that settling your weight and lowering the
reins will become a cue to slow down. Doing the same, and touching your
horse’s neck will become a cue to stop. In essence you are not just
teaching your horse to stop, you are letting your horse to feel when
you want it to stop, or slow down and allowing it to do so on it‘s own,
in a relaxed manner. As you are doing this while you are working
cattle, especially when you combine it with lateral movement, you will
find your horses being able to keep looking at the cow when you stop.
You will also discover that your horse will begin adjusting itself to
the cow with no effort on your part.
On older, broke horses, you need to start using a light mouth contact
and asking it to slow and stop by the above methods, they will respond
fairly rapidly. I prefer dropping them back to a snaffle or bosal and
riding them like a colt for a month or two. You can continue riding in
a curb bit and just ride on a shorter rein to achieve the mouth
contact. However as you are not only teaching your horse to stop
on its own, but to use lateral movement as well, it is easier on both
you and your horse to go ahead and drop back to a snaffle or bosal.
This is because if you try to use an indirect rein at this point, the
leverage from a curb bit will tend to inflict pain on your horse. In
addition the leverage from the bit will tend to tip the horse’s nose
away from the cow. By stopping your horses in this manner, you will get
a relaxed and balanced stop on your horses like the one in the pictures
to the right, or the video below.